In 1899, Frederick George Aflalo compiled a book called The Cost of Sport. It’s an attempt to quantify how much you should expect to pay to participate in various sports. There’s a short section on skating by Theodore Andrea Cook. Cook lists the following expenses:
- Skates: A sturdy pair of boots plus some nice blades. No price is given for the boots, but the blades cost about one pound. According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, that’s about £129.47 today.
- Club membership: No price is given.
- Admission to artificially frozen ice rinks: Again, no price is given.
- Travel to natural ice: This is where the bill gets huge, with a four-month stay in Switzerland for “the best skating in the world” at luxury hotel rates (p. 344).
- Personal ice rink: The equipment for ice maintenance costs “something under a sovereign,” or a bit less than a pair of good blades. Labor, however, can be very expensive!
The cost of clearing away snow is often a heavier matter, and the secretary of the Wimbledon Lake Skating Club has reckoned that a really heavy fall costs the club not far short of a sovereign a minute while it falls.Cook 1899, p. 344
Comparing this list to the expenses facing skaters today is quite interesting. Skaters still need skates, ice time, and club membership. Skaters still travel to training camps, though these are generally no longer held on natural ice. Personal ice rinks are uncommon today. Interestingly, two of the major expenses facing today’s skaters are absent: coaching and costumes. Back then, skaters helped each other informally and skated in clothes suited to everyday wear. There’s also the expense of testing and competing, including travel to competitions. Skaters also did these things in 1899, but Cook does not mention them.
Theodore Andrea Cook. 1899. “Ice Sports” in The Cost of Sport, edited by F. G. Aflalo, p. 342-347. London: John Murray.